Photo by Chad Horwedel on Flickr.

DPW improperly purchased and leased a number of SUVs, including the ones for Council Chairman Kwame Brown, in violation of laws restricting their use, according to a preliminary report from Councilmember Tommy Wells and his staff.

Wells requested information from the Department of Public Works last week. His staff must have been working late nights to analyze the data, since he already released a report (PDF) on the findings based on what DPW provided.

In 2004, when a law went into effect prohibiting SUVs or other vehicles getting less than 22 miles per gallon except for ones used in security, emergency response, or rescue, or for armored vehicles. Since then, the report shows, at least 32 vehicles were purchased or leased that violate this provision.

The report is clear when it comes to Chairman Kwame Brown’s SUV:

The Chairman of the Council inappropriately requested the city provide a Lincoln Navigator SUV,  and the Executive appears to have violated DC law by providing it. It is contrary to DC law to lease or purchase a sport utility vehicle (SUV) or a vehicle that achieves less than 22 miles per gallon (MPG), and the requested vehicle does not meet any of the statutory exceptions.

While it was inappropriate to request this type of vehicle, the Chairman of the Council is permitted under DC Code §50-204(a) to have an official vehicle to travel between his residence and workplace, and for use in the course of his daily work.

The law also prohibits DC workers from chauffering others around, except for the Mayor. However, the report says officials may have been routinely violating this provision, including in past administrations.

Also, DPW does not have a centralized list of vehicles and to whom each is assigned. A DC Auditor report from April 2010 recommended DPW create a “comprehensive fleet management program” to track this, but that has not yet happened.

Most Councilmembers were silent at first when revelations about these SUVs first broke. Many feared that they would put comity over accountability in this case. Wells, for his part, has moved extremely quickly to get the facts out and stand up clearly to root out this problem throughout the government.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.